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Like The Horse Whisperer, Gruen's polished debut is a tale of human healing set against the primal world of horses. The Olympic dreams of teenaged equestrian Annemarie Zimmer end when her beloved horse, Harry, injures her and destroys himself in a jumping accident. In the agonizing aftermath, she gives up riding and horses entirely. Two decades later, she returns to her family's horse farm a divorcee, with her troubled teenaged daughter, Eve, in tow. There, her gruff Germanic mother struggles to maintain the farm and care for Annemarie's father, who is stricken with ALS. Although Annemarie decides (disastrously) to manage the farm's business, her attention quickly turns to an old and ostensibly worthless horse with the same rare coloring as Harry. Her long-denied passion for riding reawakens as she tracks the horse's identity and eventually discovers it to be Harry's younger brother. She must heal both horse and herself as she struggles with her father's deterioration, Eve's rebellion and her attraction to both the farm's new trainer and her childhood sweetheart Dan. Impulsive and self-absorbed, Annemarie isn't always likable, but Gruen's portrait of the stoic elder Zimmers is beautifully nuanced, as is her evocation of Eve's adolescent troubles. Amid this realistically complex generational sandwich, the book's appealing horse scenesdepicted with unsentimental affectionhelp build a moving story of loss, survival and renewal.
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*Starred Review* Annemarie, 18, is a world-class equestrienne who is sure to be a contender in the next Olympics. Then, a terrible jumping accident causes the death of her magnificent horse, Highland Harry, as well as severe injuries to Annemarie herself. Damaged as much in spirit as in body, she marries Roger, moves to another state, and gets a degree in English, vowing never to ride again. Twenty years of a more or less emotionally empty life go by until one fateful day when Annemarie loses both her job and her husband. With her defiant 15-year-old daughter in tow, Annemarie returns to her parents' riding school in New Hampshire, where her father is dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Suddenly, Annemarie is bombarded with all sorts of emotions and responsibilities, including the rekindling of an old romance and the discovery of a broken-down horse that looks remarkably like Highland Harry. Fans of Nicholas Evans' The Horse Whisperer (1995) and Jessica Bird's impressive debut, Leaping Hearts (2002), will also enjoy this emotion-packed book, which is so exquisitely written it's hard to believe that it's also a debut. Shelley Mosley
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I liked the writing style - very easy to read. But the main character I found frustrating and so unlikeable, that I just could not enjoy reading this book. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Deesnowboard
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, good writing, great story with an unbelievable turn of events, kept me captivated the whole way through.Published 14 months ago by Lynn Gordon
I read this book shortly after it was released, which was coincidentally shortly after my own beloved Dillinger, a horse I owned and raised for 18 years died. Read morePublished on May 20 2013 by Patricia Connolly
I had a hard time with this book. It took me a long time to start to enjoy it and I did not end up finishing it.Published on Jan. 22 2013 by Elizabeth Miron
I read this after reading Water for Elephants so it was a bit of a letdown. Very simple to read with not much substance.Published on Jan. 3 2013 by dufferingirl
I loved "Water for Elephants" and was looking forward to another captivating read by Sara Gruen.
I was hugely disappointed to find that this reads like a drug store... Read more
I had to shed a tear or two while I was reading "Riding Lessons" You wouldn't think that when by the title of the book, but whether you are a horse lover or have ridden on a horse,... Read morePublished on Dec 12 2010 by Jordan L. Wares
I found it very difficult to feel compassion for the main character in this book. She was 37 but acted like a spoiled teenager much of the time, and expected her daughter, who was... Read morePublished on May 6 2009 by A. Houston